Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Sisyphus slips on a rock?

I have been a regular reader of New Sisyphus since he was brought to wider attention during the asian tsunami crisis and I have found his insights to be quite valuable. This remains true today even after circumstances forced his withdrawl from the Foreign Service in the DoS. The move from overseas back to the Pacific Northwest here in the US caused his blog to go dark for a while but he's started up again and I'm checking in every couple of days.

His post yesterday offers, again, valuable insight into the current war on terror. I might not agree with everything he's said, but it's still valuable. Right up to the part where he's asking questions about where the President is going in his plan to win the war. I'm with him on some of those questions, but he lost me here:

::::::::Question: Our troops are short translators? Why haven’t we drafted the thousands of recent new loyal Americans from Arabic-speaking nations who have recently legally immigrated and, in doing so, registered with the Selective Service and agreed to bear arms if called upon?

Every single time I hear someone talk about the draft, I listen carefully to the men and women already in the service to see what these people have to say about it. What they have to say has not wavered an inch in 4 years: they don't want the draft. I've heard that from the Secretary of Defense, from the Joint Chiefs, from Generals in the field, from Colonels, Sergeants, and line grunts. Absolutely no one currently in uniform - that I've heard from, anyway - has supported a draft for any reason. I would submit that if it's not a good idea to force someone to take up a rifle, dive into a foxhole, and count on them to cover the behinds of their "brothers in arms" that it's equally not a good idea to count on those same folks to properly translate for non-arabic-speaking troops. What would be the motivation of a man who spent years scraping together enough cash and official permissions to finally immigrate to the US who then gets carted off to boot camp, put in uniform, and shipped back to where he spent years trying to get away from to accurately translate the words of some sheik he couldn't care less about? The term "fragging" didn't get coined in a vaccuum - the practice has actually occured. While it's happened in the MidEast here in the recent past, the practice was far more common in Vietnam. Why was that? Because the troops who engaged in this behavior were draftees who had no connection with the officers commanding them and had no motivation to be in the conflict at all.

This is the path we want to follow in Iraq and elsewhere? I don't think it's a good idea, not at all. Now, if the Pentagon wants to start marketing the hell out of the message that such new immigrants would discover real advantages and opportunities in performing this service for their new country, that's a different matter. Make those new immigrants want to join up and translate and they'll do it well. Force them into uniform and they won't. I can't imagine any serviceman who'd want to trust his life to such conscription.